Grace be unto you and peace from God our Creator and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Que la Gracia y la paz de Dios y de nuestro Senor Jesuscristo sea con todos y todas Ustedes!
SALAAM MALECHIM! Amen.
Buenos dias, my brothers and sisters in Christ. It is so good to be with you this morning! I am both honored and humbled to be asked to deliver the Word this morning.
I WANT TO THANK BISHOP RIMBO FOR HIS GRACIOUS INVITATION;
It’s good to make AN AMIGO ON FACEBOOK and now finally I GET TO MEET YOU IN PERSON! I also want to thank the ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE for all YOU did to COORDINATE my visit.
ANY TEXANS HERE THIS MORNING? KATHY Kazan, I know you grew up in CORPUS CHRISTI, not too far from where I grew up. ANY OTHERS? …
ANYONE VISIT AUSTIN?
Then YOU KNOW ABOUT OUR hospitality: MI CASA ES TU CASA!! (Just ask Kimberly Lile!)
AUSTIN PRIDES ITSELF ON BEING WEIRD. IT’S OUR BADGE OF HONOR!
ANY WILLY NELSON FANS HERE TODAY? Then you’ve heard TEXAN HYMNODY AT ITS BEST!
I BRING GREETINGS from the LSPS AND FROM THE PEOPLE OF THE BORDER. LSPS IS a program of WTS and the LSTC. WORKING TOGETHER WE HAVE PROVIDED THEOLOGICAL EDUCATION in Texas for over 40 years.
Some folks refer to us as “THE BEST KEPT SECRET IN THE ELCA, BUT WE ARE TRYING TO CHANGE THAT WITH OUR CROSS-CULTURAL TRAINING.
THIS MORNING I’D LIKE TO SET THE STAGE FOR OUR REFLECTION ON THE SONG OF MARY, THIS TIMELESS SONG OF PRIASE WHICH THE CHURCH UNIVERSAL KNOWS AS THE MAGNIFICAT. The Mary of St. Luke’s gospel is A WOMAN LIVING ON THE EDGES OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE. I KNOW THIS MARY. Along the U.S. – Mexico border where I’m from, she lives on the edges. She’s known as La Virgen Maria del Valle (THE VIRGEN MARY OF THE VALLEY OF SOUTH TEXAS); others know her by her Mexican name, MARIA DE GUADALUPE.
WHATEVER MARY COMES TO MIND IN YOUR EXPERIENCE, I THINK WE CAN ALL AGREE THAT SHE IS familiar with LIVING IN EMPIRE because she has seen her people OPPRESSED by the EMPIRE OF THE WORLD. Maria lives in occupied territory. Her native language is suspect and spoken in measured tones lest it be ridiculed or silenced. Mary carries within herself THE ORAL HISTORY AND SONGS OF her people, Hannah’s and Miriam’s; She knows the traditions, rituals and FAITH FORGED IN THE CRUCIBLE OF EMPIRE, OF DIASPORA AND THE BITTER-SWEET MEMORY OF LIBERATION FROM THE CRUEL YOKE OF SLAVERY IN EGYPT.
Maria is a young teenager who has heard the stories and reenacted THE PASSOVER RITUAL ever since she can remember. And with EVERY RE-TELLING OF THE STORY, she has carried within herself the HOPE AND DREAM AND PROMISE of a Liberator Messiah WHOSE REIGN will extend as far back as her ancestors ABRAHAM AND SARAH and as far into the future as her imagination will allow.
SHE IS A YOUNG MARIA who knows the trials of LIVING UNDER THE HEGEMONIC RULE OF AN EMPIRE that is ruthless and merciless with the poor. A WOMAN UNDER OCCUPATION like Maria is expected to conform and KEEP SILENT. Not only is she AN OBJECT UNDER ROMAN RULE RULE but she is also dutifully bound to the HEBREW’S PATRIARCHAL that dictate the RULES AND RITES of matrimony. She stands to lose much if she violates the norms and conventions of her people or DECLARE FREEDOM FROM ROMAN OCCUPATION. SHE HAS TO KNOW THIS!! SHE IS BETROTHED TO JOSEPH.
MARY is una jovencita comprometida (A YOUND LADY BETHROTHED) for whom the FAITH IS A MATTER OF LIFE OR DEATH. As a woman FROM THE MARGINS as dictated by CULTURAL, SOCIAL, ECONOMIC and POLITICAL DISCOURSE she is a woman who has much to lose if SHE VOICES anything EXTRA-ORDINARY.
Which is why her song is SO SCANDALOUS AND SO DARING, so full of BLESSEDNESS. By SINGING IT SHE CLAIMS HER AGENCY EMPOWERED BY A GRACE she yet DOES NOT FULLY understand. Her song is a response to grace, as if the law of her people and the good news of an Incarnate Word meet in the very fibers of her being and give birth to the song of the ages. Mary’s song of praise is a CANTO DE ALEGRIA to the HOLY ONE who VISITS the lowly Maria with the good news of HER EMPOWERMENT.
So MARY SINGS HER MAGNIFICAT, but she sings it not only for herself, BUT FOR ALL OF THE HOPEFULL MARIAS OF EVERY TIME AND PLACE. She sings it for all who have yet to claim their AGENCY as rightful HEIRS OF THE PROMISE MADE IN BAPTISM THAT ALL are children of God with an inherent dignity second to none. SHE SINGS IT FOR THE BORDER-CROSSERS FROM CENTRAL AMERICA for whom the LAW IS BOTH JUDGE AND JURY. SHE SINGS IT FOR THE PREGNANT WOMEN who are held in DETENTION CENTERS throughout the nation and throughout the world. She sings it for all of the people of God who live on the margins of their communities. She sings it for all who have not broken the law but find themselves at the mercy of systems that betray them and commodify them for profit. SHE SINGS IT FOR ALL OF THE DEPORTED MOTHERS AND DAUGHTERS OF THE CHURCH. She sings it to the POWERFUL REMINDING THEM OF THEIR RESPONSIBILITY TO CARE FOR THE LEAST AND THE MOST AT RISK OF THE COMMUNITY.
SHE SINGS IT IN MANY LANGUAGES THROUGHOUT THE WORLD. She sings it in the FAVELAS of Brazil, in the BARRIOS OF THE POOR in Buenos Aires, MONTERREY and Mexico City. She sings it in Bethlehem, IN THE GAZA STRIP and in Egypt with the PERSECUTED MINORITY. She sings it with ALL THE REFUGEES FROM SYRIA in their flight to freedom. She sings it in the TOWNSHIPS of South Africa and within the CASTE SYSTEM OF INDIA. She sings it with ALL THE WOMEN OF HISTORY who DARED TO CLAIM THEIR AGENCY in spite of the FORCES that would deny them THEIR VOICE , their CANTO DE ALEGRIA of God’s PREFERNTIAL OPTION FOR THE POOR AND THE OUTCAST and OF ALL who find themselves at the MERCY OF THE POWERFUL.
SHE SINGS IT for those who leave their countries IN HASTE because of the threat of PERSECUTION by DEATH SQUADS. She sings it for all of the UNWED PREGNANT MOTHERS whose condition as WELFARE MOMS will make them DESPRECIADAS, REJECTED BY THE PRIVILEGED ECONOMY THAT SERVES THE WEALTHY. She sings it for THE PERSECUTED OF EVERY TIME AND PLACE with NO PLACE to call their own. SHE SINGS THE SONG FOR ALL OF US AND INVITES US TO SING IT WITH HER in the HALLOWED TEMPLE OF OUR SACRED WORSHIP. SHE INVITES us to join her in HER MISSION of spreading the good news OF the Holy One of Israel WHO FAVORS THOSE WHOM THE WORLD REJECTS AND EMPOWERS THEM AS VESSELS OF THE INCARNATE WORD.
I KNOW THIS MARIA. I HAVE SEEN HER AT WORK along the U.S. – Mexico BORDER WHERE I COME FROM and where I AM CALLED TO MINISTRY with the peoples of TWO NEIGHBORING NATIONS AND FROM FOLKS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD. Every January I co-teach a class at the Episcopal Seminary where our Lutheran offices are located. MY EPISCOPAL COLLEAGUE AND I TAKE our students TO THE BORDER to examine the reasons that cause PEOPLE OF FAITH to CROSS THE BORDER in FEAR AND DESPERATION. On one of these trips, WE MET Maria at the church that WELCOMES US every year. We visit this CHURCH THAT PROVIDES SANCTUARY TO THE MARIAS OF THE BORDER so that we can hear THEIR VOICES AND THE VOICES OF OUR GLOBAL NEIGHBORS.
MARIA TOLD US HER STORY. She questioned the reasons for HER POVERTY and her HOPELESS LIFE. While on a walk pondering her existence she experienced a holy visitation. She saw a paper on the ground and was compelled to pick it up. On the piece of paper were the words: “I AM THE ALPHA AND OMEGA, the beginning and the end.” At that moment MARIA knew that SACRED Word was meant for her. The Word spoke to her. SHE PONDERED THAT WORD IN HER HEART. This moment was the beginning of a SACRED JOURNEY that would take her north, AL NORTE. In faith, she would join the countless others who make the trek north on a train called LA BESTIA, the Beast, looking for a way out of her poverty and hopelessness. She made it to the U.S. – Mexico border and when we met her she was a vital member of the church that welcomed her.
EVERY YEAR, she speaks to our students and re-calls her journey for us. While living in Laredo in conditions that can only be described as ABJECT POVERTY, she found herself huddled with her children one Christmas Eve covered with a blanket to protect her children against the cold. She is recounting the ancient narrative she learned in her country, of the birth of the POOR ONE OF BETHELEM … born in a stable much like the one she lives in when she hears a knock on the door.
NOT KNOWING WHO IT IS, she answers the door and much to her surprise a lady from the church who has heard of Maria and her children greets her with a Christmas eve dinner of turkey and all of the trimmings. Maria exclaims her surprise at the Sacred VISITATION BY THE Incarnate Word in a woman of faith who reached out to her neighbor with FAITH ACTIVE IN LOVE. That Christmas eve, MARIA SANG HER CANTO DE ALEGRIA as she broke the bread of life with her children.
There are many similar Marias in all of our communities of service. They too are seeking an Incarnate Word FROM THE CHURCH. Martin Luther had much to say about the neighbor in THIS THEOLOGY of FAITH ACTIVE IN LOVE. He speaks even more powerfully in HIS THEOLOGY OF THE CROSS. He reminds us that GOD WORKS THROUGH THE UNEXPECTED, THE UNLIKELY and THE LOWLY to bring about an UNEXPECTED REFERSAL OF FORTUNES, choosing the LOWLY MARIA to be the UNLIKELY VESSEL FOR THE SAVING PLAN FOR HUMANITY, while scattering the proud in their conceit for their disregard of the VALUES OF THE REIGN OF GOD where THE LEAST FIND FAVOR AND THE RICH ARE SENT EMPTY AWAY.
MARIA’S CANTO DE ALEGRIA to the God who visits her finds inspiration in the heart of every believer who has yearned for a day WHEN THE WIDESPREAD GOOD is the norm and NOT THE EXCEPTION and where THE MOST VULNERABLE of our communities FIND SOLIDARITY with the people of God. In a world WHERE THE BREAD OF TRUTH AND JUSTICE is lacking, WHERE THE BREAD OF LOVE AND MERCY is absent and WHERE THE BREAD OF SOLIDAIRTY with the WEAK AND THE VULNERABLE IS SCARCE, MARY’S SONG inspires HOPE for all who seek the fulfillment of the PROMISES OF GOD. In Mary the Word of TRUTH AND JUSTICE, of LOVE AND MERCY and SOLIDARITY WITH THE WEAK finds REFUGE AND SACTUARY, a Word that now dwells in each of us, CALLED AND BLESSED IN OUR BAPTISM TO SERVE OTHERS IN A FAITH ACTIVE IN LOVE. God’s work, our hands. Let us sing TO GOD’S PRAISE! Amen.